Monday, January 23, 2012

Behind the Scenes at the ALA Awards - Immediate Post Announcments

So the press conference is over, the ohhs, aahs and sighs have been uttered and the thunderous applause is still ringing in the ears of the committee members.  What happens next?

Lots of colleagues, both in person and online, congratulate the committee members and savor the decisions.  At the same time, the second guessing starts.  Why wasn't a favorite or heavily hyped or talked about book honored...anywhere?!?!  Why wasn't my favorite book/author/audio/DVD selected for an award or honor? Why so many honor books?  Why so few?  What was that committee thinking?  They clearly don't have any taste.  Why did all the mock discussions cite a book the committee didn't even mention?

Most committee chairs chat a bit about the reactions committee members may encounter.  All these committees work under extreme confidentiality.  They may speak about their own feelings about a book but can never speak about the committee deliberations.  The votes are counted and tallied. The winner determined and the honor books agreed upon.  No one leaves the room until everyone agrees to take the results forward from that room in unison and as a committee.

As a member of both the Newbery and Caldecott committees during my career, it was sometimes hard to bite my tongue when snarky remarks were bandied about.  Once my year was over, I made it a point to defend in letters and print the work of committees that served after me. 

It is difficult to understand just exactly how hard each award committee works: the reading, thinking, discusssing, ruminating, considering and listening they do before casting their votes.  Many of these awards are unique in that the committee members ignore the body of an author's work and simply compare the books eligible for the award that year each against the other.  Most reviewers don't. Few bloggers do. It's a razor's edge that the committee members deftly balance upon.  The fifteen members in that room (or eleven or seven or five) will bring forth a decision based upon the work of that group at that time with those books or materials.  It may be that a different group going through the exact same process with the exact same materials to examine would come up with a different set of awardees.  But that is a parallel universe that doesn't exist once the awards are announced.

I am content that my colleagues have done what we have asked them to do with great concern and care - identify the best quality literature in print and non-print for youth. I trust them...and the process. It helps to chillax over the whole thing. Take a deep breath and enjoy all that  not only the honored books have to offer but all the books and non-print produced this year for youth that each of us holds close to our hearts and out to kids.

Next up, the good times.

1 comment:

Abby said...

YES. I, too, have heard comments from people about the award winners this year. Picking those winners and honorees is an impossible task and we can't know what, exactly, was discussed in the committee's process of coming to a terribly difficult decision. This is a great reminder to all of us!